Heaven is Full of Legos – The other day my 5 year old announced that he didn’t want to go to heaven. That’s problematic for several reasons, mainly because of the salvation of his soul, but as Catholic parents we teach him that heaven is our ultimate goal. We talk about how the saints are in heaven with God and therefore we want to be a saint, too.
So that night at dinner we gave him a reason to want to go: there are millions of Legos to play with! We told our 4 year-old daughter that she can play with dolls day and night (since she stays up well past her bedtime playing with dolls in her room). She was so excited about this that she told her babysitter the following night: “In heaven I can play with dolls night and day, day and night!”
Our son was thrilled about the idea of millions of Legos to create with, and now he was interested in heaven. The next question was, “Is there food in heaven?”
“Oh yes,” I replied. “There’s a heavenly banquet full of the most wonderful food! You can even eat all the donuts you want without getting sick!”
We sold the idea of heaven to them so well that a few days later one of them was running through a parking lot and we yelled at them so they wouldn’t get hit by a car. “That’s okay, it means we can go to heaven!” they replied.
That’s when we had to give them the next lesson. We can’t go to heaven until we are ready to, and until God takes us. What we do on this earth is to work on loving Jesus better until we are ready for heaven. And that’s a subject for a whole other blog.
So, this is one way to talk to young kids about heaven: explaining the goodness of heaven through things they love. Trying to tell them at 5 years old that heaven is like a Mass that never ends will get them running in the opposite direction. God reveals himself through salvation history slowly and in stages, and as parents we teach them about God in the same way.
St. Paul wrote in 1 Cor 3:2 “I could not talk to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it…” Jesus spoke in parables because that’s what people could understand at the time. They got the farming and the shepherding allusions while it took the Church much longer to process the spiritual realities they contained. For our children right now, it’s toys.
Young children do not have the capability for abstract thought and higher reasoning. So we appeal to the appetites that they do understand. The way our son uses Legos like a master builder requires creativity and ingenuity. How he is able to put pieces together to build new objects is amazing! And how our daughter plays with her dolls and brings them to life demonstrates her great imagination and desire for relationship.
All these qualities are part of the goodness of God, and heaven is the perfection of his goodness without our human sinfulness, weakness, and frailties getting in the way. Heaven of course is union with God, yet when I think of the vastness of the universe, I know that I cannot comprehend the scale of heaven or the infinitely broad spectrum of things his goodness can encompass.
Therefore, right now we use the concrete to get our kids excited about heaven. We use the visual of toys, but always in connection to our loving God. When you think of doing something you love and the euphoria it brings, and then think about being able to do it on an infinite scale for all of eternity, that’s what we can tell our kids heaven will be like. It’s the fullness of the goodness of God. And who knows? There really could be millions of Legos…